I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Malthus got this one right

Heaven after Hell. That sums it up neatly for me, I think, the effect of the Roman Catholic church on Philippine society, and what it promises – especially in the context of the current rice situation.

Time to face facts: there’s too many people and too little rice. It’s not even about the cost of rice anymore (which makes that populist grandstanding about a moratorium of VAT even more stupid), but the very availability of the damned grain. From the third rice tender this year, we expected to get 500,000 metric tones of rice from international bidders, but only 325,750 metric tons was actually on offer. So how do we make up the shortfall? Even with that ludicrous rice subsidy they have going on, the supply simply isn’t there.

Worse, whatever rice is available is being snapped up at a much faster rate than normal. The idea of a looming crisis has activated the panic-buying switch in everyone. Now, it’s not just the big traders hoarding rice, it’s the small consumers. Or should I say the pseudo-small consumers?

You see, some well-off families have been gaming the system. When you reach a certain income bracket, people eat more often at restaurants than at home. For these people, the rice they buy is mostly for the house-help and the pets. Ironically, in the circles I know, these are also the largest purchasers of cheap rice. With most of these upper-income families employing at least two – up to six – house-help, they are able to buy more at those street side selling points.

First thing they do is they go quite a distance from where they actually live. When they find a selling point, the helpers line up with everyone else, only they are spaced about two-three people apart. Most of the time, they’re not noticed as strangers. But when they are, they just say they’re from so-and-so depressed community and that that place ran out of rice. They then give the sob story about having had to walk or travel far just to find rice. It’s clever, really. This story reinforces the notion that there is a shortage, and sets people a-twitter. In short order, they forget that their are strangers among them.

Once they get their quota of cheap rice, these helpers walk walk walk. Eventually, they all meet up, get in the re-conditioned van they use for going to the market and drive on home.

Last night, a friend of mine told me this story, practically beaming with pride at how canny her septuagenarian father is. Some part of me wanted to share her pride at this cultural stereotype being proven right, but a bigger part of me wanted to smack her upside the head. We’re not foreigners anymore, bitch.

But she did make one other point tho’. Part of the problem is that there are just too many people competing for a small and finite supply of rice. And for this, I blame Holy Mother Church.

Solita Monsod recently said the Church makes no difference; that people make family size decisions regardless of what the church says. I say that’s not quite accurate. While it is true that people don’t really take the Church all that seriously, the fact is the government does. And because the government is slavish to the Church it has, against all good sense, refused to make information about contraception and planned parenthood unavailable (thanks for the edit, Jeg) to the masses. Worse, condoms and IUDs are no longer given out at health centers. So, even if people actually wanted to limit the size of their families, they simply don’t know how to do it. And even if they did, they can’t get their hands on the birth control methods they need. It is this pernicious, albeit indirect, influence of the Church on the size of Filipino families that all but guarantees life on this earth can get pretty hellish.

At least in this beautiful country, it appears that Malthus was right on the money.


Filed under: church and state, education, musings, politics, society, , ,

11 Responses

  1. cvj says:

    It’s true, rice supply is finite but a number of things can be done to build up domestic capacity in terms of policies like allocating more land (by preventing land conversions) or protecting domestic producers (by preventing smuggling), improving the income of farmers (via Land Reform) and improving yield per land (by planting higher yield rice). The thing is, we left ourselves dependent on the forces of supply and demand via the worldwide commodity market which leaves us in a weak position to deal with global price and/or supply shocks.

  2. BrianB says:

    Population problem has been serious for two decades now and has been critical for a decade. The biggest warning sign, before this rice crisis, was the education crisis. Bigger classroom populations, underfunded public schools, a yearly budget that is tragically below the requirement.

    Populaton control is inevitable, I don’t know why government doesn’t understand that. Our politicians are the sort of people who’d just put down the toilet lid when they canot flush their own shit. The problem gets bigger and any rational person would know it will happen… there will be population control, and if we’d done it ten years ago we wouldn’t have to be so heavy-handed about it. Imagine how’s it’s going to go twenty years from now when desperate reaches magic realist levels.

  3. Jeg says:

    …refused to make information about contraception and planned parenthood unavailable to the masses

    You meant ‘available’.

    The Church may be correct that the problem is not really the number of people that is the problem but the injustice and concomitant unequal distribution of wealth, in other words, a moral problem. Solve the moral problem and there would be enough food for everyone. The logic is unassailable. The only problem with the logic is the empirical, observable fact that the people in general won’t be giving up their lifestyles anytime soon to eliminate inequality. They just won’t. In the meantime, people are going hungry because most of them are eating the crumbs of the upper crust (pun unintended, I assure you) and there just arent enough crumbs. The Church has to face up to that fact and not thwart any government effort to get the information on birth control to everybody, and not block the efforts of NGOs who are willing to donate seminars and birth control paraphernalia.

  4. BrianB says:

    Unassailable logic? They must admit they favor communism first, or at least socialism, then we can talk about unassailable logic. Free market runs on greed, everyone knows that.

  5. mlq3 says:

    um… would you like to be a guest on my show?

  6. Jeg says:

    Say yes!

    (And someone please record it. I’ll be out of the country. 🙂 )

  7. rom says:

    mlq3: I’d LOOOOVE to be on your show, uncle. But I am going out of the country soon to study, sooo …. is there anyway I can participate without actually bringing my fat carcass? 🙂

  8. BrianB says:

    MLQ, why not ask that hyperinflation guy on your show. I’d love to hear his ideas on how to make the rich ten times poorer.

  9. Nathaniel says:

    Actually since there has been enough food produced THIS year (actually in the past several ones as well but including this one) to make every man, woman, and child on the planet fat (yes far more food than it would be healthy for us to ate) you should be asking yourself why is it that the food already grown isn’t being sent to those who would eat.

    Don’t give Malthus too much credit, the human race has spent the past 200 years proving him wrong.

    Your point would be stronger if there actually were more people than food, but there isn’t. Right now there is an oversupply of food not the humans to eat it.

    And the point about people in the upper crust not wanting to give up any of their advantages. You mean that people below them have to give up having kids just so they can keep all of their current lifestyle…. I think there should be a majority vote on if that comes within a the realm of being reasonable.

  10. Nathaniel says:

    almost said “a mile of the realm of being reasonalbe.”

    Sorry for the typo.

  11. rom says:

    nathaniel: welcome to the smoking room, nate. like i said, malthus may have gotten the rest of the world wrong, but here in the philippines, our medieval population policies seem to have proven him right after all.

    Your point would be stronger if there actually were more people than food, but there isn’t. Right now there is an oversupply of food not the humans to eat it.

    And your point would have been more on-target if oversupply (where did you get that assertion, btw) actually meant that no one was staying hungry.

    You mean that people below them have to give up having kids just so they can keep all of their current lifestyle.

    I’m sorry. Was I typing too fast? I didn’t say that the poor need to stop making babies so that the rich could keep scarfing up all the food. What retard would say that? The fact is, we make too many babies. Rich and poor alike can make that same mistake. Unfortunately tho, the rich have access to education that teaches them the value of family planning; the poor can sometimes still be in the grip of anachronistic beliefs that big families are good; and the rich can afford condoms and shit. The poor have enough trouble buying sardines; you think they’re gonna blow money on a condom?

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